Those of you who have been on one of my workshops know that I like to talk about the pricing of handmade craft items. I have, on occasion, strayed into rant territory (I'm sorry).
It is an unfortunate fact in a global economy that consumers become accustomed to low cost imported goods and it is something I am guilty of myself. I blame the Amazons, Ikeas and Primarks of the world for providing us with endless, impossible-to-resist bargains. After all, no-one likes to pay 'over the odds' for something they can get cheaper, right? But how often when we're spending our hard earned cash do we think about those that were involved in the production of whatever it is we're buying? Where in the world are they living and under what kind of government? What are their working conditions like? And what are they being paid? Who else is taking a slice of the final ticket price of the product?
So what about crafts that are handmade in the UK? It is a frequent problem facing makers about how we should price our products. How do we attach a value to our time and effort? What will customers be prepared to pay? Will I ever sell anything without reducing my prices? I've struggled with these questions particularly in the early days but am gradually becoming more confident about the prices I ask for my work. But it hasn't been easy and I doubt it ever will be.
Let me tell you a story - some of you will already have heard this. I had a stall at a weekend event earlier this summer when a woman looked at the price tag on an item I was selling. Rather than keeping her opinions to herself( which would have been preferable) she gasped and said 'How much?!!!!. If you'd been asking a tenner I might have taken one'. I'll admit that I allowed my frustration to show in my reply to her 😜 but I was fed up and, quite frankly, I'd taken offence. And the reason why goes to the heart of what this blog is about.
In challenging me over my prices, what that particular lady was doing was falling back on the conditioning we've all been subjected to by the large retail outlets in creating an atmosphere where cheaper = good value. It doesn't.
In deciding on my prices, I take into consideration some of the following:
How long have I spent learning my craft?
How much investment (time and money) have I put into training courses?
How much time have I spent practicing in order to be able to make to a standard that I can sell to the public?
What are my material costs and how much wastage will there be?
How much did I spend on tools and equipment?
What are my stall hire charges?
What are my transport costs?
And the big question - what do I charge for my time? Not only in the making process, but also packing and unpacking a van at either end, setting up a stall and sitting on it all day?
I'm not alone in the making community in struggling with the last point. But I keep reminding myself that, as much as I enjoy my work, it is work and needs to pay the bills. And that is the reason why craft items (not just mine) are priced at what seems to be, at first glance, on the steep side compared to shop bought products. UK handmade items that are sold for profit need to sustain a UK cost of living. Cheap imports are cheap because someone, somewhere isn't being paid very much to make them.
And it isn't just the above points that I factor into my pricing. I also place value on the fact that I can talk to my customers about my products, how they're made and how to look after them. Tell them a bit about my craft and why it is important that we keep heritage crafts alive. Talk to them about my journey from employment to self-employment. You can't get that provenance from a store bought product.
I can't compete with the prices of imported goods and I refuse to undervalue my time, effort and skills in an attempt to compete. It is such a shame that our retail economy squeezes the craft sector. It doesn't have to be like that. It didn't use to be like that.
To end this particular spiel on a positive note, I have met many lovely people at my stalls who appreciate handmade items and the effort that goes into making them. I've also met some incredibly talented makers some of whose work I've bought and others I've looked upon in admiration (and a little envy). I consider myself lucky to work and mix with creative people and derive huge amounts of pleasure from their skills. That's got be worth something. Right?